(Reuters) — San Francisco technology companies including Twitter, Salesforce.com, Uber and Airbnb lost an important ally on Tuesday with the sudden death of Mayor Ed Lee.
Lee courted the industry with tax breaks and helped fend off a backlash against the tech sector and the soaring rents and rising inequality it has brought to the city.
Lee, 65, a former tenants’ rights lawyer and San Francisco’s first Chinese American mayor, died with more than two years left in his term. The cause was a heart attack, local media said. The mayor’s office did not confirm the cause.
As a champion of the tech industry, Lee arranged a major tax break for companies that moved into the impoverished Mid-Market neighborhood, a measure designed in part to keep Twitter in the city.
In 2014, he brokered a deal to let Alphabet’s Google and other big companies use city bus stops for their private commuter buses, so long as they paid a modest fee. Street protesters had targeted the buses as a symbol of how wealthy tech workers were driving up rents and forcing long-time residents out of middle-class neighborhoods.
San Francisco’s skyline was remade during Lee’s tenure as the local economy soared along with the tech industry: a new skyscraper, the city’s tallest by far, will house software firm Salesforce.com.
Lee also advocated a hands-off approach to firms such as Airbnb Inc, Lyft Inc and Uber Technologies Inc even as they faced political pushback and stiff regulations elsewhere.
Tech companies historically were mostly based in suburban cities to the south of San Francisco such as Mountain View, where Google…